(Pittsburgh,PA) Ever since 2001, the Pittsburgh Steelers have had the toughest time beating the New England Patriots, winning only 5 times in 15 contests. The good news is that they can add one more win as the Steelers did the impossible by beating the Patriots 17-10 in front of 65,280 fans at Heinz Field.
The Steelers played like they should’ve played during their 3-game losing streak…with desperation. And with the Baltimore Ravens beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier Sunday, a fourth Steelers loss would’ve dropped them to 7th in the AFC, meaning on the outside of the playoffs. Instead, their victory keeps them a game up on the Ravens (7-6) at 8-5-1.
“Awesome Day.” Said Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin “I’ll start by wishing my oldest child a happy birthday. My oldest son is 18 today. Just as a parent, that’s a wild thing but onto business: good team effort, it was going to be required. I liked the no-blink and supportive approach of the team in all-three phases.”
In addition to their 3-game losing streak, the Steelers were hit with injuries: OT Marcus Gilbert is done for the year, RB James Conner has missed the last 2 games with a knee injury and even QB Ben Roethlisberger suffered cracked ribs in the loss to Oakland, and not to mention K Chris Boswell’s struggles with field goals and extra points. Not a good situation going up against a team that usually has their number.
But the Steelers beat the Patriots.
How?? Not just because of desperation, but also the other things that they lacked the past 3 weeks: Heart, determination, and character. And Character can beat talent any day, which is what took place in this game. The Steelers needed players to step up and make splash plays in this game, and they came through.
“It felt big because of our present circumstances.” Said Tomlin “We like to believe that we are the common denominator in all stories involving us and it was less about our opponent and more about particularly how we have played of late, in terms of having an opportunity to finish games.”
No James Conner, no problem. Enter rookie RB Jaylen Samuels who was drafted out of South Carolina and he simply rushed for 142 yards in his 2nd career NFL start. He also added 2 catches for 30 yards. Looking for a 3rd WR? How about Eli Rogers, who was finally healthy enough to play and caught 4 catches for 20 yards. How about rookie James Washington, who was criticized for making a huge drop against Denver a few weeks ago, responded with a huge catch in the 3rd quarter and finished with 65 (team-leading) yards on 3 catches.
“I knew it was a big game.” Said Samuels “It was a redemption game from last year. I knew how big this game was for us and our organization. I just wanted to go out and give them my all. Didn’t want to have any letdowns with James Conner being out.”
QB Ben Roethlisberger (33/24, 235 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INT) may not have had his best game, but he surely made the plays when needed as he tossed 2 TDs in the first half and made key plays down the stretch in the 4th quarter. His 2 interceptions could’ve been costly, but the team held together despite them.
But it was truly the defense that stood talk against the Patriots as they only allowed 1 TD the entire game when QB Tom Brady found WR (and Steeler-Killer) Chris Hogan for a 63-yard TD that tied the game at 7. A true mistake in the Steelers secondary allowed Hogan to get so wide- open that he literally had an open lane into the end zone. The culprits on that play: S Sean Davis and CB Artie Burns, who shockingly earned the start after getting benched the past several games. After that play, Burns was benched again.
Despite giving up that TD, the Patriots were only to get points off 2 Stephen Gostkowski FGs that brought the Patriots to within 4 points. And after Big Ben’s 2nd interception, it appeared that Brady and the Patriots were about to do what they’ve (and the past 3 Steelers opponents) done to this team time and time again: Take the lead in heartbreaking fashion.
Not this time. As Brady was driving down the field, he was getting pressured by Steelers defenders, led by LB TJ Watt who recorded a sack on him. As time was ticking late in the 4th quarter, Brady let go of a pass that was intended for WR Julian Edelman, but instead fell into the hands of Steelers CB Joe Haden, who did a Spider-Man type leap to snatch the ball out of the air.
“Joe is a special guy.” Said Tomlin “He really just is. He’s got special talents but his approach to it day in and day out.”
The Steelers offense they shaved 3 minutes off the clock by getting key first downs and had to settle for a 48-yard FG by Boswell (who missed a 32-yard FG in the 3rd quarter) to extend their lead to 17-10. But Brady had the ball with over 2 minutes left and drove the ball to the Steelers 25-yard line before turning the ball over on 4 downs with 20 seconds left.
Brady passed for 279 yards, a TD and the interception “Yeah, that’s exactly right. Just didn’t get the job done. We have to figure out a way to get better.”
The Steelers will now focus their attention on another NFL powerhouse in the New Orleans Saints next Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The 11-2 Saints will face NFC South rival Carolina (6-7) Monday night.
“We’re not worried about that.” Said Tomlin on his he’s focused on preparing for the Saints. “We’re really just assessing what happened here today, we’ll get ready to move onto the Saints tomorrow.”
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